Crackdown on human trafficking

Crackdown on human trafficking
Armed police sailing towards a trafficking camp in Satun, southern Thailand.

HAADYAI: Thai and Malaysian police are expected to meet on Friday to discuss human trafficking issues plaguing both nations.

The move will see authorities from both sides going all out in their clampdown on such a trade following the discovery by Thai police of trafficking camps on a mountain at the Malaysia-Thailand border in Padang Besar, Songkhla province.

Provincial Police Region 9 Deputy Commissioner Puthichart Ekachant said the meeting with their Malaysian counterparts would likely be held in Haadyai but did not give further details.

At a press conference organised by Royal Thai Police Deputy Commissioner-General Aek Angsananont yesterday, he said another four suspects had been arrested, making it a total of 15 people.

"Forty-nine arrest warrants were issued and 15 were arrested. The other 34 are being hunted," he said.

It is understood that nine of the 15 people arrested were government servants, including Padang Besar mayor Bannajong Pongphol, police officers and politicians.

Aek said police were expanding operation to cover more districts in Songkhla province to track down human traffickers.

"We believe a big group of them is hiding in Satun province," he said.

On Saturday, he told The Star that the suspects, possibly including Malaysians, were part of the trafficking ring.

Since May 1, Thai police had discovered four "slave camps" holding Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants where mass graves containing 32 bodies were found near the Malaysia-Thailand border.

In Putrajaya, a Wisma Putra official said Malaysia was keen to participate in a three-nation meeting proposed by Thailand.

"We took note of the proposal and await further details from Thailand. Malaysia has always worked closely with Thailand on issues along our borders," he said yesterday.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha last Friday called for a three-way meeting with Malaysia and Myanmar on the matter.

Myanmar's permanent secretary at the Ministry of Immigration, Myint Kyaing said Myanmar had not yet been contacted about the meeting.

Home Ministry's secretary-general Datuk Alwi Ibrahim said in a statement: "Based on investigations, there was no discovery of camps or graves of Rohingya illegal immigrants in Malaysia's area."

He said it was more about the smuggling of migrants rather than human trafficking.

This, he added, was because most illegals, including Rohingyas, had paid syndicates to smuggle them into Malaysia through Thailand.

"They did it of their own accord and they are not human trafficking victims," he said.


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